"This article is reprinted with permission from the January issue of The Legal Intelligencer. Copyright 2008 ALM Properties, Inc. Further duplication without permission is prohibited."
From the moment that I met my client, I could not wait for the opportunity to be in front of a jury presenting the facts of his case.
On March 3, 2006, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq. Upon learning of their son’s death, the Snyder family planned a traditional funeral service and burial. They expected a private service to grieve the loss of their loved one -- but, others had a different plan. On March 10, 2006, the Snyder family conducted a traditional Catholic mass at St. John’s Catholic Church in Westminster, Maryland to remember Matt and to come to grips with the reality that they faced.
The defendants, on the other hand, also wanted to participate in the Snyder family’s grieving process. The defendants, a “church”, its leader and several church members from Topeka, Kansas, have become notorious for protesting military funerals. On March 8, 2006, the defendants announced their intention to picket “St. John’s Catholic dog kennel.” Sadly, Matt’s body was transported back to the United States on that very same day.
Mr. Snyder had vaguely heard of the defendants prior to his son’s funeral but did not understand the true nature of their hate or the harm that the defendants were preparing to cause. True to their word, the defendants came to the St. John’s Catholic Church on March 10, 2006.
Ironically the defendants, licensed attorneys, have knowledge of the law that allows them to push (and test) the limits of the First Amendment beyond the breaking point.
On March 10, 2006, the defendants and four of their young children carried out their threat and came to the church to protest. The defendants brought their relatively large fluorescent signs, and the signs read - Priest Rape Boys, Thank God for Dead Soldiers, You’re going to Hell, God Hates You, Pope in Hell, Thank God for IEDs and several other equally shocking statements. In addition to the offensive signs, the defendants sang macabre lyrics set to the tune of time honored patriotic songs. In one such example, “God Bless America” was changed to “God Hates America.”Continue Reading...